Cashmere is one of the world's most cherished natural fibres, prized for its warmth and sublime softness. This is the story of how a tiny country far from where it is grown came to dominate this market, to become universally recognised as home to the world's most exclusive luxury fabrics.
We'll start with a short history of cashmere's development and manufacture. Then we'll explain why Scotland in particular became known for producing the very finest cashmere in the world. And finally we'll let you in on the secret of how to distinguish the very finest Scottish cashmere from the ordinary stuff, while paying a fraction of the price your neighbours might. That's got to be worth a few minutes? If you think so, read on!
Here's an inspirational story if you're wondering about trying your own hand at tartan creation... A few years ago Dr Carol Martin, a Canadian dentist, chanced upon the online Tartan Designer facility on our old web site. She thought she'd give it a go. And Carol quickly got hooked, soon becoming known as a superb designer.
We felt it would be fun to hear about the thought processes that went into a spectacular new tartan's creation, , called "Volcano" tartan. So with no more ado, we're delighted to bring you some insights into this tartan design in Carol's own words:
Scotland is famously home to not one but two renowned fabrics, tartan and tweed. Oddly they're not as distinct as you'd think. You can have tartan tweeds, or tweed tartans. Confused? Don't be. Read on and you'll soon understand tweeds better than anyone you know!
So let's start by defining tweed technically, so you're clear exactly what tweed is and what it's not. Even so-called experts muddle this up.
Tweed today has an iconic style indelibly linked to upper class pursuits. It has a far claim to be British national dress, the obligatory wardrobe staple of any gentleman or socialite. But it wasn't always thus.
In this article we'll guide you through a brief history of tweed. We'll start with its humble beginnings as a practical peasant fabric. Then we'll describe its adoption as a symbol of wealthy by landowners and royalty. Next we'll cover its twentieth century discovery and popularisation by fashion designers. And finally we'll bring this right up to date, with today's adoption by hipsters and millennials, which still harks back to tweed's heritage as a signifier of both wealth and vintage authenticity.
This article explains the third main way in which these fabrics are distinguished: a tweed's source or origin. Tweeds are classified by source or kind in three distinct ways. Some names refer to their geographical origin, like Harris Tweed or Donegal Tweed. Others are named after their function, such as Gamekeeper's Tweed, or Thornproof Tweed. And a third group takes its name from the breed of sheep from which their wool was shorn, including Shetland Tweed or Cheviot Tweed. Each tweed has its own unique character, and which you choose depends on your own needs and tastes.
In this piece we're covering the main patterns and designs in which tweed is traditionally produced. Some like checks and plaids are well recognised. Others like herringbones and windowpanes are much beloved by those who know fabrics, but may not be as instantly named by everyone. And others again such as the Prince of Wales or Gun Club will probably be identifiable only by those who are tweed lovers already. You'll find them all here.
Tweed is not a pattern, and nor is a material. It's ultimately best seen as a type of yarn, produced by dying raw wool (or other fibres) after washing, but before it is spun. So tweed fabric is termed fibre-dyed.
This richness down to the level of individual hairs is what gives tweed its unique character, and extraordinary depth.
Tweed comes from a long British sartorial tradition, which has now achieved democratic popularity worldwide. The fabric conveys a low-key sophistication. If you doubt this, consider how costume designers use it in the movies. Before a word of dialogue is spoken, tweed introduces a character as cultured, elegant, upper class, intellectual, or perhaps a little unworldly. These signals are subtle, but universally shared.
Now it's time to look at how tweed is worn, by women and men, and indeed children. Tweed is suitable for almost any type of garment (except underwear!) And there's no lack of all-time classic designs that remain in vogue season after season. But we'll also suggest some more unusual or imaginative ways to include tweed in an outfit to striking effect.